The clean nicotine delivery device known as the electronic cigarette has fared well in its first clinical trial. According to a new study that Italian researchers published in the journal BMC Public Health, the device may be more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) as a means to help people quit smoking. And, even better, the results of the trial suggest that the e-cigarette may be effective at reducing smoking even in smokers who are not motivated to quit.
The small clinical trial consisted of providing e-cigarettes to 40 healthy adults who smoked regularly and had no expressed intention of quitting. Intervention was minimal, consisting only of a baseline assessment and four follow-up clinic visits. Otherwise, the smokers were simply told to use the e-cigarettes as they wished; they were given no instructions to try to quit smoking regular cigarettes. Over the 6-month course of the study, 22.5 percent of the participants had quit smoking, while another 32.5 percent had cut down their cigarette consumption by at least half. In other words, over one-half of the smokers were able to quit, or significantly cut down their cigarette use. This outcome is especially impressive, considering that the six-month quit rate for approved cessation aids is well below 20 percent and those results are derived from smokers who want to quit and are followed closely in the clinical setting.
ACSH advisor Dr. Mike Siegel, professor at Boston University's School of Public Health, observes, This trial simulated a real-life experience, where no motivation or support was offered to subjects to quit smoking. ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross adds, This could well be groundbreaking, noting that he s eager to see the results of more extensive clinical trials, particularly involving subjects who are motivated to quit. I am confident that the success rate will be significantly higher, he says.
Yet while the evidence for the e-cigarette as a successful (and thus far, harmless) smoking cessation device is accumulating, most public health associations remain opposed to the device. The American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says Dr. Ross, ticking them off on his fingers. Knowing the data, how long can these groups continue to say they want to help people and still come down against e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco? And why do governmental authorities waste so much time trying to ban this potentially beneficial product?